Snohomish County and Ohio may be separated by thousands of miles, but they have something in common: they’re both battlegrounds for political campaigns.
“Snohomish is a must win county. That’s why it’s a battleground,” said Jeff Kazlauskas, an army veteran turned Republican field organizer.
Kazlauskas used to live in the battleground swing state of Ohio; he’s now working for Republican governor hopeful Bill Bryant in the battleground swing county of Snohomish.
He notes the diversity of the county is what makes Washington’s third most populous county similar to Ohio.
“In Ohio, it represents the nation, in Snohomish, represents diversity of the state," he said.
“We really are kind of a microcosm for the rest of the state,” agreed Richard Wright, Chair of the Snohomish County Democrats. “We’ve got a large number of aerospace manufacturers in Everett; we’ve got agricultural farms here in Snohomish Valley. We really are in a lot of ways a small Washington state.”
So why are both sides so invested in Snohomish? It has something to do with the number of persuadable voters at stake.
Take the 2012 election year as an example. Governor Jay Inslee won the county over Republican Rob McKenna by a margin of 8,012 votes. However, President Obama carried with county with a much larger margin, 55,500 votes.
That means tens of thousands of voters split their ticket, picking a candidate, over a party.
However, a Republican hasn’t won Snohomish County in a governor’s race since Dino Rossi in 2004. Without carrying Snohomish and Pierce Counties, it becomes near impossible to offset the population of blue King County.
Washington State Republican Party Chairman Susan Hutchison has called flipping Snohomish Republican a top priority in 2016.
“There have been teams everywhere in the county for the last six months on behalf of local candidates, on behalf of statewide candidates,” said Kazlauskas of the Bryant campaign. “We’ve put the work in, we’re going to continue to put the work in. We’re going to turn Snohomish red.”
“Any Republican attempt to turn Snohomish county is rowing severely upstream,” counters Richard Wright. “The past several elections, we’ve trended more and more Democratic.”
However, the Washington State Democratic Party’s ground game shows they’re not taking anything for granted.
On a recent Sunday, volunteer canvassing focused on leaning Democrats who don’t vote often but need a “nudge,” according to field organizers.
That nudge usually comes with a door knock, or multiple door knocks until a pledge to vote turns into a mailed in ballot.
While the Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign encourages voters to vote for Democratic candidates from top to bottom, many Snohomish County voters identify themselves as Independent minded.
“I like to read the profiles of all the candidates. I don’t pick along party lines. I pick who I’m most aligned with, so it will depend on who the candidates are,” said voter Tara Ervin.
That’s a response you hear a lot in Snohomish County, no matter whose voter contact list you happen to be on.
Snohomish County resident Vickie Hesseltine, on the Bryant campaign’s list, told KING 5 she will likely vote for Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket, but won’t necessarily vote blue all the way down ballot.
“It just really depends on person themselves, what their track record is. I’m looking at individual, because I don’t think parties are real tried and true like they used to be,” she said.
With that sentiment a common one in Snohomish, voters can expect to see competing ground games here until the very end.
“Once ballots come out we’ll be in a full court press trying to make sure that every ballot gets returned especially for people we’ve made contact with. That’s just the name of the game, turning out as many of your voters as possible,” said Wright.
Regardless of county, ballots are due on Tuesday; the deadline for drop boxes is 8 p.m. sharp.